District of Columbia,
- 6 miles/10K, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race
- Road Race
- Event Website
When I first registered for Marine Corps it was simply because 1) I wasn't running NYC and 2) I wanted a fall marathon. The timing was right and I knew people loved the race but felt pretty neutral about the whole thing honestly, probably because I've been to DC and it's not my favorite place. Anyway, as the race approached I realized I was getting more and more excited, especially because I finally started having good training runs and I was doing the race with cool people. I went to the race prepared to run a 4:30 marathon but due to some stomach issues and my friend (first time marathoner) having MAJOR stomach issues, this never panned out. However, I LOVED the race as a whole. I'm glad my attitude about the whole thing came around eventually because it was a really fun race and I HIGHLY recommend it. Let's get to some details:
Expo: The expo was great IMO. There are free shuttles from two major metro stops to the convention center so, while no direct metro access, it was still easy to get there. Bib pickup was very easy and organized. The one disappointing this I experienced at first was a surprisingly slow assigned expected finish time which put me in a different corral than my friends. This was the first year they assigned corrals and I guess I didn't put the appropriate finish time when I registered. They flat out refused to change it. I decided to worry about it at the start and hopefully "sneak" into my friend's corral, although I had doubts whether they would be enforcing it anyway. The expo itself was really well organized and had good flow with wide aisles so, unlike other large expos (CHICAGO!) it wasn't nearly as claustrophobic. The key apparel sponsor is Brooks and they have a large store with plenty of extra swag you can buy. I ended up with the jacket and an awesome pair of gloves. There was a ton of nice stuff. Expect to spend $$$.
Swag: the big talk this year was about the AWFUL race shirt. The shirt is always a mock turtleneck (I think it's a marine thing) which is already pretty awful but I expected that. This year however, the shirt design just really sealed the deal of awfulness. Honestly, I don't want a picture of strangers across my chest. I actually used the shirt as my throwaway at the start to keep warm (it is quite cozy in all fairness) but I really wasn't expecting to keep the shirt anyway since I don't keep many race shirts. #SorryNotSorry
I expect there was so many complaints that this won't happen again. The medal, however, is badass and included this year a compartment with a challenge coin. Very cool.
Race morning: The race starts at 7:55 but the metro only opens as early as 6, probably later depending on which stop you use. Honestly, this is pretty sucky on the part of the metro but not much the race can do about it I guess. DC metro is pretty awful/confusing on a good day. We stayed in Alexandria, a few miles from the start, which made for an easy uber ride. We wanted to get there early so we go in an uber by 5:45 and were at the start by 6. We had no issues at this time. We just told the uber to get as close to Pentagon as possible and it worked fine, although you do have to walk probably .5 mile at least to the start area (not too surprising for a large city race though). I suggest planning to get there early and staying in Arlington/Crystal City/Alexandria is probably easier/more direct than staying in DC proper. It sounds like many people who waited for the metro were much more rushed and some people ended up starting after all the corrals had started. Don't do that. Get there early and it won't be an issue.
The start: There are UPS trucks for bag drop, tents to hang out in (including a non-denominational religious service), and tons of potties. However, if the lines at the potties are long in the waiting area, just head up to the start line corrals on the bridge/highway; there's even more potties lining the highway with no waits. As I said before, I was worried about starting with my friends. However, it ended up not being an issue because there was absolutely no enforcement of the corrals when we actually got to the start line so I still started where I wanted. I've been told the corrals were added to stem the fact that people suck at self-seeding. Even with the "corrals" this year, people were still pretty awful at self-seeding and the start is crowded as expected. It's a large race (~30,000 runners) so just expect crowds, especially at the start. The pre-race ceremonies include a skydiving team flying in with an American flag while someone sings the National Anthem. Very cool. One thing I really loved about the start was the line of soldiers in the first mile carrying all the flags of nations represented among participants at the race; 65 countries were represented this year which is something awesome to see at a very American race in the Capitol.
The course: the first 3 miles are net uphill and definitely make for a good warmup. After that I would characterize the course and rolling flats; very manageable. The course itself is beautiful, imo, heading into several awesome neighborhoods including Georgetown, Roslyn, central DC and the mall area, etc. You run by many monuments, Smithsonian museums, the Capitol, etc. It was pretty spectacular. At mile 12 you run the Blue Mile which honors fallen soldier. Several of their photos are accompanied by their family members. There TONS of American flags and it's a pretty emotional/motivating experience, more than I expected.
Support: first off, MARINES! Everywhere. I'd say maybe 75% of volunteers were uniformed Marines with local organizations, boy scout troops, etc, making up the rest. You can't go wrong when everywhere you look is Marines. They make great cheerleaders and aid station volunteers. It's incredibly motivating. I heard later that maybe some of them are actually marched from Quantico the night before for the race but I'm not sure if that's true. Of course, the highlight at the end is receiving the medal from a Marine. I messed up big time though by forgetting to get myself or my friend selfies with "our" medal Marines. Don't make that mistake; get your selfie! The finish is up one last hill to the Iwo Jima memorial which also makes for a great post-race photo spot. Don't miss it!